Walk Profile: S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome SMILE Mile

Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member

Walk Profile: S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome SMILE Mile
Walk Date: Saturday, October 3, 2015
Who: S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome
Location: Vanderburgh County 4-H Center; Evansville, IN
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/evansvillesmilemile
Organization Website: http://smileondownsyndrome.org

“The morning of the walk is like Christmas,” shared team captain Theda Guth when we sat down with her to talk about the Evansville SMILE Mile. Theda has been involved with S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome since the organization first began in 2001 as a support group for parents who had children with Down syndrome.

A teenager and freshman in high school, Theda’s daughter Emma enjoys singing, riding therapy horses, participating in the SMILE summer dance program, and cheering with the Spirit Cheer program in Vanderburg County. Emma loves spending time with her family, especially her older brother. This is one reason why the SMILE Mile is such a special event for Emma and her family. “It brings everyone in Emma’s life together.” According to Theda, Emma’s favorite part of the event day is seeing everyone come out to support her. The hot dogs are also one of Emma’s personal favorites too! Last year, Team Emma had 30 members that rallied together for the walk. Theda worked to recruit team members by reaching out to her church and therapy “families” and her family members through Facebook, paper flyers and word of mouth to encourage them to support Team Emma.

It is all hugs at the Evansville SMILE Mile Theda described the SMILE Mile as a “fun-filled morning,” a celebration, and a “comfort to see everyone there and how many people support your loved one with Down syndrome.” Previously a Buddy Walk®, S.M.I.L.E. on Down syndrome decided to transition this year into the SMILE Mile, a locally branded event with the same celebratory environment as before. Held again this year at the Vanderburgh County 4-H Center, Executive Director Nikki Davis shared with us that the venue is the perfect location for the event. “Inside the registration building, participants can check out our vendor tables as well as our silent auction and SMILE store,” she explained. “In the outside building, our volunteers have kids’ activities that generally include face painting and games. In that building is also where we annually have the kiddy train and our family fun area, which includes a petting zoo and photo op area.”

Overall, the walk has seen tremendous growth through the years. Theda shared, “I think it is awesome because it has allowed us to provide new families with lots of information and support. When Emma was born there weren’t as many resources; now, there is someone in the group who can help new parents with their concerns.” The money raised from this year’s SMILE Mile walk will go to support critical programs and services for families in the IN/IL/KY tri-state area. The funds also help operate the SMILE Center, which was opened in 2011 at 105 NW 4th St., Evansville, IN and continues to provide vital opportunities for people with Down syndrome of all ages, from newborn to adults.

This year, the S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome team hopes to raise $70,000 through the SMILE Mile. To show your support for the walk, please visit the SMILE Mile fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/evansvillesmilemile. To learn more about S.M.I.L.E. on Down Syndrome, please visit http://smileondownsyndrome.org.

This post is a continuation of our Down Syndrome Walk Profile series. We’ll be profiling and highlighting Down Syndrome Walks from around the country in an effort to share the stories and experiences that make Down syndrome communities so vibrant and unique. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon.

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